Sometimes life is rosy.
Sometimes clouds gather on life’s horizon with darkening menace.
Sometimes the tumult breaks with a whirl of blades and there seems nowhere safe to lay your head.
Most Christians’ worldview includes the reassurance of prayer. Regardless of whether a deity sits behind and listens to prayers or not, prayer is (potentially) an opportunity to relax into a situation beyond your control. Prayer, ofttimes, is an articulation of fellowship and solidarity with others who are hurting or fearful. And prayer is a habitual practice of seeking for gratitude and humility.
Or at least, it can be all these things, at its best. It can also be an opportunity to hate, to strong-arm and intimidate, to big-note or to focus attention on stressors and guilt in an unhealthy way.
But I want to consider prayer at its best. What methods are there for those of us without the comforting reassurance of prayer to enjoy the ‘letting go’, the fellowship, the gratitude and humility?
Is mindfulness meditation able to achieve these goals? While I can see how it might bring ‘inner peace’ and a comfortableness with your own skin, I can’t see how it would achieve the simple act of solidarity achieved through the words “I’m praying for you”. And can it articulate gratitude for the good things we enjoy in concrete ways? Perhaps?
Mark Forster, the personal organisation life-coach’, in his book How to Make Your Dreams Come True, suggests keeping a diary recording “What’s better?” The idea is that each day, you write down whatever you can think of that is better than yesterday. The idea is that by focusing on framing things positively, you’ll naturally drift towards your goals, and enlarge your thinking. Although it certainly smacks of pop-psychology, it actually makes a lot of sense. And it has the potential to cultivate a habit of gratitude. It could also just be an avenue to self-importance, of course, but for most people, it seems more likely to encourage them to look for ways to be grateful for what they have, which seems an eminently healthy approach to life.
For those who are looking to replace the positive aspects of prayer, there must be a whole range of habits, rituals and ideas to choose from. But crafting them takes thought and time.
Are there significant actions and ideas that others have found helpful?